How to become a fashion designer

How to become a fashion designer loves you…

Customising tops!

Tailoring inventive fabrics!

Major dress patterns and tailoring chutzpah!

This alternative job fits the bill for:

  • Most exciting jobs in the world
  • Jobs that allow piercings
  • Unusual jobs

Faye Smith is better known as Fifi Coucabelle, alternative fashion designer from the UK and owner of We talked to her about the alternative fashion industry now and how to break into it.

How did you get into fashion and why specialise in the alternative industry?

I started on a tiny sewing machine, cutting up my old and boring tops, trying to make them unique by adding zips and buttons. I look at them now and think ‘Oh God’, but at the time they gave me some basic knowledge of clothes and design. I specialised in alternative fashion as I had already been modelling in it for a year, and I found the clothes allowed for more creativity and were more challenging.

So how did you develop your designing?

I bought a bigger and better sewing machine and serger/overlocker (a machine that stops seams from fraying.) I took a night school course about dress patterns and just practised.

How important is knowing technical sewing for small DIY designers like

I think it’s really important! The ability to read patterns is undervalued by a lot of DIY designers. But this opens up a world of different fabrics, tailoring and making technical clothes.

Sewing patterns look hard to understand, but they’re like learning a dance routine or language – once you know what certain dots mean you can transfer that knowledge to other, harder patterns.

Fifis Secret has a fun and quirky style. How did its style grow?

I didn’t choose the style, it chose me! I guess I’m a fun and quirky person so this comes through in my designs and on the website. When developing your style don’t search too hard for it. People will say ‘Oh, you do **** well…’ and certain motifs like pocket placements or favourite colours will shine through.

This is your style, don’t try and change it – just develop it!

How would you suggest people to get into sewing?

Enrole in a beginner’s class! If you can’t do that then cut up old clothes along the seams to find their pattern, customise them and just experiment.

You don’t need the most expensive sewing machine, but you do need to understand it! So spend a while reading the instructions and practising button holes and other techniques on cheap scraps of material.

Also, start off with a stretchy/ jersey material as this doesn’t take as much tailoring and you can put a top together in under an hour!

Any last tips for young designers?

Whether you’re sewing/designing as a hobby or as a business, have fun and take every disaster as a learning curve. I still make mistakes and spend hours unpicking stitches (and getting frustrated). But when you make a brilliant outfit and receive loads of compliments you know why you love sewing.